Eastlawn ELD #036
Recorded on 12/20/21 & 1/3/22 at the Tempermill Studio, Ferndale, MI
This recording by the Paxton/Spangler septet lives up to its name, Ugqozi, which translates from isiZulu as "inspiration." This inspiration is layered and can be felt and understood on various levels. On the outside there is the special attention to South African jazz, a very longstanding interest for both T-Bone Paxton and RJ Spangler. I remember myself playing with them as a young man in the 70s when they were revealing their inspiration gathered by progressive big band music by the likes of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath or Sun Ra's Intergalactic Arkestra in groups such as Kuumba (Kiswahili for "Creativity"— again the idea of ugqozi) and later, the Sun Messengers. There is also the sense of inspiration revealed in the synergy between the septet and the various guest artists (Including Kirk Krahnke whose collaboration with the leaders also harkens back in the day to the 70s). The simpatico musicians blended seamlessly to assist in a band sound, a unique flavor that all great bands must achieve, through instrumental blend, arrangements, aesthetic understanding and much more.
"Water No Get Enemy" brings us to the sounds of Fela Kuti's Nigeria. The grit and funk of Alex Harding's baritone playing reminds us that his was the anchoring voice of the Broadway hit "Fela." Dan Bennett gives us a Kuti-esque solo in sound and range, more peripatetic than display of velocity. That bari sax! Ugozi is indeed an important release, balancing accessibility with progressive yearning. Wenzekhale!
- Salim Washington, 2022